It’s only a week, so make it count.
Fall break is finally here, and a much-needed chance to relax and catch our breaths from the chaotic, on-the-run, college student life. While this week-long stretch of freedom and all of its potential for 7+ days of blissful non-activity is wonderful, not doing anything but sleeping in and Netflix binging for the entirety of fall break can get old, not to mention completely un-fun, un-productive, and un-memorable. So to prevent all of these horrible eventualities, here’s a list of nine activities to do on fall break to make for a relaxing and unforgettable fall break.
1. Interact with Your Family
If you plan on going home for fall break, take some time to detox from technology and ‘me time’ by spending consecutive hours each day with family (not including meal time). It’s easy to think of fall break as a relaxing spa trip, where the role of family is to deliver fresh drinks, towels, and room service. But instead, think of your break like a family vacation where you get to plan the events. Regardless of whether or not your family’s aware of your self-appointed role as Family Event Planner, you can still have fun persuading them into enjoyable, interactive group activities (and I’m refraining from saying ‘educational’ because this is fall break after all) to do each day. Watch a classic movie with homemade popcorn, go on a bike ride, play tennis at the local park, make a new Pinterest recipe together, compete in a Rummy 500 marathon…the list is as long as you choose to make it. If you don’t plan on going home for break, set up a Skype date or two with your family, or send a surprise note or package in the mail that’s packed with doodles and random things like leaves and chocolate.
Cooking for basic survival is far different from creative cooking, and the recipes you’ve perfected over fall break will make surviving much easier (and more cost-effective, healthy, and delicious!) when you get back to school. Now is the time to take advantage of your free time and/or parents’ fridge and stocked pantry. Make a list of all the unique recipes you want to try, like Thai curry, a Cornish pasty, or Turkish delight. Pinterest also has lots of great recipes, from pizza galettes to sweet potato fries, microwaveable chocolate chip cookies to autumn soups.
‘Fall break’ isn’t synonymous with ‘staying inside and watching Netflix the entire time.’ Get out and experience the changing tree colors, grey skies, and brisk fall weather with a hike or bike ride. No matter where you live, there are always places to explore. Most towns have hidden areas that are perfect for a bike ride, game of capture the flag, or walk with friends. Some towns have rails-to-trails routes, which are old railroad lines converted into walking/biking paths. If you live in or near mountains, hiking trails through woods and alongside waterfalls is an epic fall experience. If not, take a walk with friends through your neighborhood, local park, or even cemetery (So not morbid—cemeteries are some of the most peaceful and beautiful places in towns or cities).
4. Collect Leaves
Just like ants on a log and jumping in puddles, collecting leaves brings back memories of childhood. But this isn’t only an activity for kids—if you’re an artist, you can try to recreate the orange-to-red pattern; if not, just enjoy looking for flashes of bright red amidst the yellow and brown fallen leaves. It’s also fun to preserve your leaves in the back of thick books (like textbooks), so that in the winter months, you’ll have definite proof that there was a time when the world wasn’t buried in snow.
5. Build a Bonfire
Whether or not you stay on campus for break, visit a friend, or go home, bonfires are a perfect way to celebrate your temporary freedom. Music, the smell of campfire smoke and autumn chill, contests of who can actually set up the most perfect wood pyre for burning, Potluck food (another easy way to taste-test and arm yourself with recipes for survival cooking at school), s’mores, and more await you.
Also, there are these things called mountain pies, which are the most perfect campfire food ever created. They’re delicious, easy to make, and basically like the campfire versions of sandwiches, tacos, pizza, chocolate, peanut butter cups, pies—really anything that can involve bread and toppings. You can buy mountain pie makers online or in stores (like Walmart or Cabela’s) from $10 up.
(Aka, clean out your bedroom): Look, this doesn’t have to be a chore—cleaning your room goes perfectly with an afternoon of Netflix marathons and hot beverages. Watch an episode, go through The Black Hole (as in, the closet), watch another episode, reclaim the papers and wrappers from the dust bunnies under your bed, and repeat until finished. This relaxing but still productive cycle can go on for hours without boredom or stress setting in.
If you can, stagger your productive times for when your family’s around—that way they can see the proof of you doing something as rare as cleaning. Otherwise, good luck explaining that you were productive and were absolutely not eating bon-bons all day. This is especially difficult if you accidentally meet them at the bottom of the stairs during one of your breaks in the exact moment they’re coming in the door from a full day of work. While you’re clutching, say, a monstrous tub of Trader Joe’s peanut butter cups in your arms.
Let’s face it—it’s tough starting a new project or hobby amidst the chaos of homework and classes. Who has time to learn to play the piccolo while studying for an exam, or begin to skateboard while researching for a fifteen-page paper? Not many college students. But with fall break, you can take advantage of the seven to ten days of no homework to begin a new hobby, project, or skill. You don’t have to learn Klingon (unless you’re a huge Star Trek fan, and then hey—go for it), but you can learn a dance routine, how to stand on your head, make a Shutterfly project, practice whistling, learn the alphabet in American Sign Language, etc. etc. Most of your projects won’t be finished when school picks up again, but it’ll be much easier to carve out time to continue a project that you love while juggling homework than it would be to start something entirely new. And the quirkier the better, because then this conversation featuring you could definitely take place:
Room visitor (or intruder, however you look at it):“What’s that strange clicking sound in your roommate’s room?”
Roommate: “Oh, he’s just catching flies with chopsticks. Or possibly knitting a Jack Skellington garden gnome…you know, the usual. Collecting the quirkiest hobbies is his favorite pastime.”
8. Shock Your Friends With a New Hairstyle
Not only do you have plenty of time to do projects, eat good food, and catch up on Netflix and hiking, you also have time to change up your style. Dye your hair, get that blue streak you’ve been wanting, shave your head, or hack off your long hair with a bob. Getting a new look is always refreshing and fun (and sometimes nerve-wracking), but what makes this especially worth it is the shock factor for your friends when you return to school.
9. Finally Start Your To-Watch List
You know all the TV shows, movies, anime episodes, and YouTube videos your friends have been telling you about for months that you’ve wanted to watch, but never got around to actually starting? Well now’s your chance—fall break is the perfect time to pause on your 3rd re-watch of The Office and explore the cobwebby depths of your Netflix queue and friends’ to-watch lists.
Enjoy the upcoming 7+ days of freedom, family and friends, bonfires and hiking trips, quirky projects and good food, and all the other memories-in-the-making things you plan for fall break!
Katie is a Staff Writer at the Daily Runner.